Cook County Board Commissioner Tim Schneider said Wednesday he wants to assure residents and municipal officials that a recent idea to annex all the county's remaining unincorporated land into existing municipalities will not be implemented overnight or without voters' consent.
Schneider said he has no personal objection to the idea that surrounding municipalities annex the county's 62 square miles of unincorporated land, where about 98,000 people live, to save costs and improve services. But he wants property owners who may have a strong opinion on the subject to have a vote, he told the Daily Herald Editorial Board Wednesday.
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Schneider's District 15 includes a large part of the Northwest suburbs. He serves on the task force that identified the annexation plan as a cost-saving measure.
"I was one of the people who said, 'This is fine, but it's going to take a lot more time than you think,'" Schneider said. "People are getting too alarmed that this is going to happen tomorrow."
Schneider supports a proposal requiring a majority of voters agree to be in special service areas for annexation.
While he wants to leave the question of annexation to voters, Schneider does believe in the service benefits of belonging to a municipality. Particularly for police services, municipalities often provide a much nearer homebase than the county can for far-flung unincorporated areas, he said.
But he also understands differing points of view on the equity of these services. Some residents of unincorporated areas wonder why they should have to wait longer for the police service they pay taxes for than people in municipalities, Schneider said. But some municipal residents wonder why they should pay for county police and then even more taxes for their own police services.
While police response is a clear example of services that can be improved through annexation, others include building inspections and code enforcement, Schneider said.
Even if supported by voters, though, the plan to annex unincorporated property might require some grandfathering of standards to make the it cost-effective, Schneider said. For example, street widths and the spacing between light poles may differ in a currently unincorporated neighborhoods than in the municipality that may eventually annex it.